Friday, June 17, 2011

In Defense of the Feelings of Non-Vegans

In a recent piece on, Christina Pirello asks why veganism makes non-vegans so angry. She considers the possibility that it is a "collective guilt" about damaging the environment and killing animals. Or maybe it's a denial that a diet that doesn't include animal products can be healthy.

She comes to the conclusion that "the derision and ire evoked by articles about veganism is simply a reaction to expressing an opinion that differs from the mainstream. I believe these reactions will continue to proliferate as long as we keep being told that meat is a necessary component of human health."

It's a thought-provoking article, and the responses from vegans and non-vegans alike do much to prove that it was necessary to write. But as much as veganism in general seems to make non-vegans angry, I can see why this article might do the same.

You see, Pirello assumes that not only are non-vegans made angry by veganism - a premise that is not true across the board - but that all non-vegans are inherently the same in their reasons for being angry. I don't think one reason for their anger (if they have it at all) can be identified. Some non-vegans might feel self-conscious about their personal eating choices and become angry at successful vegans out of defensiveness. Some might think vegans are annoying, like "Jehovah's witnesses," as one commenter on the post puts it. Some might not care at all.

By lumping all non-vegans together and trying to get to the bottom of their supposedly shared anger, Pirello inadvertently implies that they comprise the "huddled masses," so to speak, while vegans are separate, thoughtful, somehow superior people.

It is true that being a vegan requires making a deliberate decision and sticking to it, while most non-vegans don't need to put as much effort into their food choices. But just as vegans have different reasons for choosing their lifestyle, non-vegans have different reasons for being angry (or not).

At the risk of upsetting any Jehovah's witnesses, I would say the key difference between religious missionaries of any kind and vegans is that religion is inherently personal. Your religious belief or lack thereof doesn't need to affect anyone else. In contrast, your food choices affect not only your own health, but that of the planet and by extension, everyone who lives on it. Cord Jefferson at GOOD explores those effects, especially with regard to factory farming, here.

Obviously, this is a discussion that needs to be had. It needs to be thoughtful and respectful. But it doesn't need to be angry.

See this post on


  1. I'm a non-vegan, i'm not angry, and i'm the first to comment.


  2. Religious belief doesn't NEED to affect anyone else, but more often than not it does, in really deleterious ways!

    Mostly people just don't like to be told to change their ways, especially when being told in a judgemental or accusatory manner. I don't find the fact that they don't like that to be much of a mystery.